Describing Artifacts. What design and anthropology share, but Design Anthropology disregards

Alvise Mattozzi


By unfolding the tension between “artifacts” and “description” within the field of design and within the field of anthropology, the present article questions Design Anthropology (DA) on two grounds. On the one hand, DA’s ability to take into account and account for descriptive artifacts in design practices. On the other hand, DA’s ability to describe artifacts and their social role. By referring to the literature on design coming from the field of Science and Technology Studies, and by using two empirical cases of design practices, analyzed through an Actor-Network Theory framework, I will show that DA has not been able to embrace the practice of the description of artifacts as key common ground, on which to build an actual integrative discipline.


Actor-Network Theory, Artifacts, Designing, Description, Mediation

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